We lost an amazing technical mind, stellar Product Manager, good friend, literally THE nicest person, & most importantly, fantastic husband and father this week. I had the great fortune get to know Oliver Schmelzle during my years at Wholesecurity where he was Product Manager for our heuristic malware detection offering – a tough gig given that the security world was happy to reactively handle viruses, spyware and some trojan horse and phishing attacks via signatures. The reality was that Wholesecurity was a tough concept to sell that needed a strong and highly technical product owner to truly commercialize for our sales team which was focused on a highly discerning set of customers – CIO’s & CISO’s at Fortune 500 companies, many of whom lead the technology buying decisions for our sweet spot, large financial institutions. Oliver stepped up to the challenge and excelled as a Product Manager.
Running our Professional Servies activities and attached at the hip to sales at the time (Circa 2003 – 2004), I was privy to a front row view of a great technical product manager personified in Oliver. Simply put, Oliver had this great way about him of listening to challenges presented from the field, from sales, from engineering and senior management, processing the issues and coming up with a well thought out plan that would satisfy all constituents that he a) heard their needs b) understood the issues and opportunities and c) that he would get it done – and he always did.
My time working with Oliver continued after Symantec acquired Wholesecurity in October of 2005 when he and I were brought in to help pull Wholesecurity’s detection technology into a number of Norton products. I learned a lot from Oliver during this period of time and genuinely enjoyed our trips out to Symantec in Santa Monica whether it was grabbing a Kirin and sushi at Chaya Venice, reflecting on the ridiculous hours we’d logged in preparation for the launch of Norton Confidential or just chatting over coffee in Austin about technology, for which he had a passion like few I’ve ever met.
Oliver was always in the know when it came to the newest most stealth startups, new tech trends and especially new features/products from our competition – he loved it it and was a great asset to all of the companies he worked for.
When I recently decided to go out on my own, Oliver was among my first 5 emails asking to grab a coffee and to provide a sanity check (if he wasn’t working for our mutual friend and mentor, Peter Norwood, at the time, I would have asked him to come join Dave and me in the adventure). Oliver responded immediately and happily met for coffee that week. As I had seen him do a hundred times before, he listened to my ideas and thoughts about how we’d approach Tabbedout from a business and technology perspective. He interrupted only to ask for quick clarification so as to not distract from my pitch and, when I was finished, he calmly responded, in that way anyone who knew him will remember always, with a retort that humbly challenged a couple some assumptions but, and this was perhaps his best trait, came with an idea about what the solution might be rather than just pooping on it which so many ‘Devil’s Advocates’ are prone to do when hearing new ideas.
Oliver was a great connector in Austin as well – always putting interesting and helpful people in touch with one another which he helped me with on numerous occasions during the past few years.
Finally, as a friend, father and husband, the best word I can think of to describe Oliver is genuine. Those who worked with him witnessed his true interest in you – not himself and what he was busy with – and what he could do to help. His personality made him approachable on virtually any topic and during our travels I asked him about Lacey and Ryder a lot – specifically, what it was like to balance his entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic with a healthily home life. Much like in his career, Oliver seemed to excel at perfectly prioritizing his personal life amongst his work life for both of which he passionately pursued success.
As I reflect on the passing of my friend and former colleague, I am deeply sorry for Lacey and Ryder’s loss. I pray that God helps them through this and blesses them with the support they need from family, friends and the community. The suddenness of Oliver’s death (believed to be a blood infection as I understand) is a stark reminder of how brittle this life is and the importance of keeping our priorities in order. A mutual friend and Wholesecurity co-founder, Mark Obrecht, many times said, ‘Oliver loves lists’, referring to his commitment to setting a path, prioritizing and staying the course. I like to think that even though he has left us far too early, Oliver’s ‘list’ was such that his family, friends and colleagues knew of their individual importance to him and that he wouldn’t regret his approach to his 38 years in any way.
I had a great respect for Oliver Schmelzle and thought of him as honorable, hard working, highly intelligent and, of course, a friend. The Austin Technology and Startup community has lost a great contributor and we should think of a way to honor him.
Oliver’s remembrance services will be on October 21st at 5pm at the Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home, Lamar location, and at 11am on October 22nd at Tarrytown United Methodist Church.